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The Vicious Circle of Nepotism

Published on September 12, 2012 by: in: Politics

Romania’s leftist Prime Minister has failed to lead to the recall of the right-wing President – this news calmed the Western commentators and politicians who quite seriously began to worry about the stability of democracy in the poorest EU country. The reasons why Victor Ponta doesn’t like Traian Băsescu are as numerous and complicated – and for outside observers irrelevant – as animosities between another Polish prime ministers and presidents.  The whole story, however, led to a pervasive corruption and nepotism analysis by Valeriu Nicolae, published as a commentary on the European Voice Portal.

There is no point in presenting the details of Nicolae’s article as it is publicly available, I will point out just a couple of potentially universal matters (some of them explicite  appear in the text, others are my addition).

Firstly, ignoring moral, legal and substantial standards is a trait of the system, not only some of its contributors. In Romania, Traian Băsescu came to power under the banner of  fight against the post-communist corruption and nepotism – and next without a hint of embarrassment brought his own daughter to the European Parliament, earlier giving her a fast-track retraining from a model into an economist. The Presidential PDL formation officially protested against the nomination (by which Miss Elena ran for election as “independent”), but unofficially many of its members got an order to vote on the boss’s daughter. In Poland, the essence of bad habits taken over from political opponents was accurately and bluntly described in the late 90s by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, when asked what trend dominates the current AWS he said: Now, Fuck, We!

Secondly, from the point of view of the public good – however cynical it may sound – the problem is not that the children and proteges of politicians get lucrative jobs, but that they turn out to be incompetent (or just lazy, which since they are “not to move ” should not be surprising). By this incompetence they maintain their unfortunate Romanias, Congos (and some Polish districts) in a state of permanent underdevelopment, keeping in motion a vicious circle of nepotism – a system in which the political career is one of the few ways to lead a good life. In richer countries (and in societies where the job get through connections is done reliably) nepotism is not necessarily less common (think of the Bush political dynasty in the U.S.), but it is less harmful.

Thirdly, the expectation of self-purification is at least naive. Quoted by Nicolae prominent – and temporarily intoxicated, thus honest – Romanian politician said that the chance of selection as the head of the party has only the one whom colleagues will be able to blackmail – otherwise they would become an easy target of his remedial actions. This brutally obvious statement sheds new light on the practices governing the two supposedly most “internally democratic” Polish parties – PSL and SLD – and makes one consider whether a practical tenure of the leaders of the other parties does not have a bright side.

picture: Alan Cleaver

Either way, the ultimate cure for corruption and nepotism is the behavior of voters. In Romania, most of them are so discouraged by the politics that they don’t vote – thus, in the next parliamentary terms the same corrupted MPs are elected, changing their party colors if necessary. In Poland this situation is a bit better, but in the grim picture sketched by Nicolae too many elements seem strangely familiar.

Translated: Kamila Kwiecień

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About Krzysztof Iszkowski

Sociologist of politics. Graduate of the University of Warsaw (sociology) and Warsaw School of Economics (international relations), PhD (2008) in the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Science. A member of the Research Center on Democracy, author of Liberte!.

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